Voters to decide whether Millcreek becomes a city

Published: Sunday, June 10 2012 4:57 p.m. MDT

Neighbors enjoy a movie in the Millcreek area, Friday, June 8, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

MILLCREEK — Voters in Millcreek Township will decide in November whether their four communities will become a city.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen has certified to the Salt Lake County Council the Millcreek incorporation petition, which means the question will be placed on the general election ballot.

Future of Millcreek Association has been working toward this goal for three years, said chairwoman Anna Clare Shepherd.

"It is just a wonderful thing to think we'll actually be, as a community, deciding at the polls what we want," Shepherd said.

If voters approve, the township would become the fifth-largest city in Salt Lake County and 10th-largest city statewide. Approximately 64,000 people live in the area, which shares borders with Murray, South Salt Lake, Salt Lake, Holladay, Taylorsville and a small portion of West Valley City.

A feasibility study released in June 2011 concluded that Millcreek Township could become "a viable and sustainable city," but the move could result in "significant negative fiscal impacts to Salt Lake County's municipal services budget."

At the time, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said he supported the process that will ultimately let voters in Millcreek Township decide for themselves whether to create a new city or remain unincorporated.

Presently, the township's "municipal government" is the Salt Lake County Council.

Although the four communities that make up the township — Canyon Rim, East Mill Creek, Millcreek and Mount Olympus — are also represented by community councils, Shepherd says the area has matured to the point that a city council model would better serve the people.

"The most compelling reason we should do this is we can have our own government here. Right now, the County Council is our municipal government but they make decisions based on what is best for the entire county. That's who they really represent. We need people accountable to us and make our us our top priority," she said. 

The consultant's report — and subsequent financial estimates from the county auditor - suggest the change could be achieved without raising taxes, Shepherd said.

Roger Dudley, a member of Against Millcreek Incorporation, said the consultant's report did not contemplate the startup costs for a new city. Cottonwood Heights received $3 million from county coffers to launch as a city, he said. The City of Holladay received $712,000.

The issue, he says, boils down to "Do we want it? Can we afford it?"

A Dan Jones & Associates survey conducted earlier in the process indicated just 15 percent of township residents want the area to be incorporated.

"Clearly, there is not a lot of appetite for this community to incorporate. This initiative has been run by a very small group of people in East Millcreek," Dudley said. 

One advantage of remaining as the unincorporated county is that the county is not allowed to assess utility franchise fees. Holladay enacted a utility franchise fee since becoming a city. "Other cities in the valley have done so, also."

Dudley said he fears Millcreek would follow suit once elected officials realize the fledgling city needs more resources. 

"How do we get the city up and going without going into debt or borrowing money?" he said.

Shepherd says the consultant's report and improved revenue projections by the auditor suggest the model is economically feasible. "We hoping they'll come to see the light," she said of the opponents of incorporation.

Dudley says opponents far outnumber supporters. "There's a supermajority of citzens not in favor of this."

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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